• Farrar, Straus and Giroux
When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish - Martin GardnerSee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image
See Hi-Res Tif image

email/print EmailPrint

When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish



Book Buy
Book Hardcover
Ebook Ebook 
    
Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner is the author of more than seventy books, as well as countless magazine articles and other shorter works. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener

St. Martin's Griffin
The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener showcases Martin Gardner as the consummate philosopher, thinker, and great mathematician that he is. Exploring issues...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Calculus Made Easy

St. Martin's Press
Calculus Made Easy has long been the most popular calculus primer, and this major revision of the classic math text makes the subject at hand still more...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Out of Our Heads
Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness

Hill and Wang
Alva Noë is one of a new breed—part philosopher, part cognitive scientist, part neuroscientist—who are radically altering the study of consciousness by asking...
  
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Sophie's World
A Novel About the History of Philosophy

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
A page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie’s World has fired the imagination of readers...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Whale and the Supercomputer
On the Northern Front of Climate Change

North Point Press
Scientists and natives wrestle with our changing climate in the land where it has hit first --and hardest A traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party races to...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Zibaldone

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A groundbreaking translation of the epic work of one of the great minds of the nineteenth century Giacomo Leopardi was the greatest Italian poet of the...
cover Buy
Aristotle's Poetics

Hill and Wang
Introduced by Francis Fergusson, the Poetics, written in the fourth century B.C., is still an essential study of the art of drama, indeed the most fundamental...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Time Traveler
In Search of Dinosaurs and Other Fossils from Montana to Mongolia

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
“A superb introduction to paleontology as it really is and how it is done, from fish to dinosaur, bird, and mammal.” —Edward O....
  
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Killing Kennedy
The End of Camelot

Henry Holt and Co.
A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill...
  Bonus
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Speaker for the Dead

Tor Books
In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: The Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
The Cairo Affair

Minotaur Books
Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an...
  

EXCERPT

PART I
SCIENCE
This page intentionally left blank
1. ANN COULTER TAKES ON DARWIN
Ann Coulter has made a fortune by writing books that viciously insult liberals, by defending her ultra-conservative views on television talk shows, and by traveling the country giving barbed lectures. A friend recently described her with one word: cobra.
I never took Ann seriously until I read her fifth book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism. I wanted to find out what she had to say about evolution and intelligent design. My review of her new role as science writer first appeared in The Skeptical Inquirer (May/June 2008).
Ann Coulter is an attractive writer with green eyes and lopsidedly cut long blond hair, whose trademark is insulting liberals with remarks so outrageous that they make Rush Limbaugh sound like a Sunday school teacher. This is one reason why all six of her books have made The New York Times bestseller list and earned her fame and fortune.
Coulter’s fifth book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, has just been issued in paperback to provide an excuse for this review. Here are some of the book’s mean, below-the-belt punches:
Monica Lewinski is a “fat Jewish girl” (p. 4).
Julia Roberts and George Clooney are “airheads” (p. 8).
Ted Kennedy is “Senator Drunkennedy” (p. 90).
The four Jersey “weeping widows” (p. 289) of men who died in the September 11 attacks are “rabid” (p. 103), “self-obsessed” (p. 103), and “harpies” (p. 112). “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much” (p. 103).
Diplomat Joseph Wilson, whose wife was outed from the CIA, is a “nut and liar” (p. 119) and a “pompous jerk” (p. 121). He is likened to a “crazy aunt up in the attic” (p. 295).
Cindy Sheehan, the vocal war protester, is a “poor imbecile” (p. 102) with an “itsy-bitsy, squeaky voice” (p. 103).
Katie Couric is a “shopworn sweetheart” (p. 295).
Liberals are repeatedly called pathetic nuts and crackpots. “[They] are more upset when a tree is chopped down than when a child is aborted” (p. 5). Apparently Coulter expects God to send most liberals to hell, because she writes, “I would be crestfallen to discover any liberals in heaven” (p. 22).
Coulter has nothing good to say about any Democrat. They are all crazy liberals who are socialists in disguise. Her latest book is titled If Democrats Had Any Brains They’d Be Republicans. Here are a few other folks who get pummeled in Godless:
All defenders of abortion.
All defenders of gay marriages and those who think homosexuality is genetic.
“Hysterical” and “ugly” feminists.
Scientists who deny there could be subtle differences between the mental abilities of men and women and between different races.
College professors who teach students to hate God and America.
Opponents of capital punishment.
Scientists who fear global warming.
Scientists who were once afraid that AIDS would spread to heterosexuals.
Educators who want to teach small children how to use condoms and engage in oral and anal sex.
Opponents of nuclear power.
The staff of The New York Times.
Those who favor embryonic stem-cell research.
Senator John Edwards. Coulter has never apologized for slandering him. Speaking at a political action conference she called Edwards a “faggot” (falsely, of course). (See Wikipedia’s article on Coulter for shameful details.)
And so on.
In the last four chapters of Godless, Coulter suddenly morphs into a science writer. The chapters are blistering attacks on Darwinian evolution—the notion that life evolved gradually from simple, one-celled forms to humans by a process that consisted of random mutations combined with the survival of the fittest. Darwin of course knew nothing about mutations, but Coulter is concerned with modern Darwinism, which she is convinced requires some sort of superior intelligence to guide evolution.
In brief, Coulter is a dedicated believer in intelligent design, or ID for short. Among promoters of ID, mathematician and Baptist William Dembski and Catholic Michael Behe are Coulter’s main heroes. Dembski, who has a degree in divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary, was Coulter’s principal adviser on the last four chapters.
Like all IDers, nowhere does Coulter hint at how God, or a pantheistic sort of intelligence, guided evolution. There are two leading possibilities:
1. God manipulated mutations so that new species arose, culminating finally in humans.
2. God may have allowed mutations and survival of the fittest to produce different breeds of a species, such as dogs and cats, but new species were created out of whole cloth, just as it says in the Book of Genesis. Like Behe and other IDers, Coulter is silent on how God directed evolution and what sort of evidence would confirm or disconfirm the role of an intelligent designer.
This is not the place to defend in detail what Coulter likes to call the “Darwinocranks.” It has been admirably done in scores of books by top scientists, all of whom Coulter considers cranks. Peter Olofson, writing tongue in cheek on “The Coulter Hoax” in the Skeptical Inquirer (March/April 2007), accuses Coulter of perpetrating a brilliant satire of ID rhetoric.
Let me focus instead on the transition from apelike mammals to humans. Coulter repeatedly accuses the Darwinocranks of being embarrassed by a lack of fossils that show transitional forms from one species to another. Such paucity is easily explained by the rarity of conditions for fossilization and by the fact that transitional forms can evolve rapidly. (By “rapidly” geologists mean tens of thousands of years.) Moreover, transitional fossils keep piling up as the search for them continues.
Nowhere are transitional forms more abundant than in the fossils of early human skeletons and the skeletons of their apelike ancestors. Consider the hundreds of fossils of Neanderthals. H. G. Wells, in a forgotten little book titled Mr. Belloc Objects (see chapter 4 of this book), defends evolution against ignorant attacks by the Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc. In chapter 4 of his book, Wells has this to say about Neanderthals:
When I heard that Mr. Belloc was going to explain and answer the Outline of History, my thought went at once to this creature. What would Mr. Belloc say of it? Would he put it before or after the Fall? Would he correct its anatomy by wonderful new science out of his safe? Would he treat it like a brother and say it held by the most exalted monotheism, or treat it as a monster made to mislead wicked men?
He says nothing! He just walks away whenever it comes near him.
But I am sure it does not leave him. In the night, if not by day, it must be asking him: “Have I a soul to save, Mr. Belloc? Is that Heidelberg jawbone one of us, Mr. Belloc, or not? You’ve forgotten me, Mr. Belloc. For four-fifths of the Paleolithic age I was ‘man.’ There was no other. I shamble and I cannot walk erect and look up at heaven as you do, Mr. Belloc, but dare you cast me to the dogs?”
No reply.
Coulter is as silent as Mr. Belloc about Neanderthals and about the even earlier, more apelike skeletons. I doubt if they trouble her sleep; I doubt if anything troubles Coulter’s sleep. Does she think there was a slow, incremental transition from apelike creatures to Cro-Magnons and other humans? Or does she believe there was a first pair of humans?
Let’s assume there was a first pair. Does Coulter think God created Adam out of the dust of the earth, as Genesis describes, then fabricated Eve from one of Adam’s ribs? Or does she accept the fact that the first humans were the outcome of slow, small changes over many centuries? If the transition was sudden, then Adam and Eve were raised and suckled by a mother who was a soulless beast!
This is a bothersome dilemma for all Christians who believe in the crossing of a sharp line from beast to human. It is a dilemma about which I once wrote a short story called “The Horrible Horns.” If interested, you can find it in my book The No-Sided Professor and Other Tales of Fantasy, Humor, Mystery, and Philosophy.
We know from a footnote on page 3 of Godless that Coulter considers herself a Christian. But what sort of Christian? The word has become enormously vague. Today one can call oneself a Christian and hold beliefs that range from the fundamentalism of Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, through the liberal views of mainline Protestant ministers and Catholic liberals such as Hans Kung and Gary Wills, to the atheism of Paul Tillich. Tillich did not believe in a personal God or an afterlife, two of the central doctrines of Christ’s teachings, yet he is considered by many Protestants to be one of the world’s greatest Christian theologians!
Wikipedia’s article on Coulter quotes her as saying, “Christ died for my sins . . . Christianity fuels everything I write.” This sounds like something an evangelical Protestant would say. On the other hand, in Godless Coulter quotes a remark by G. K. Chesterton (p. 10), who is almost never quoted today except by Catholics. Is Coulter a Protestant or a Catholic? Or some other kind of Christian?
Although I am not a Catholic, allow me to cite a famous passage from Chesterton’s introduction to his book Heretics:
But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.
Coulter, you are merciless in bashing liberals and atheists, so please let us know what church you attend. It would clear the air and shed light on your peculiar personality and on the background for all your insults, especially your blasts at Darwinians.
Here’s another simple question to ponder: Why do you suppose God provided men with nipples?

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Essays

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, forty years after its first...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Complete Stories

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
Winner of the National Book Award The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American...
  Bonus
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Sabbath

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Elegant, passionate, and filled with the love of God's creation, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath has been hailed as a classic of Jewish spirituality ever...